Changing classrooms to apartments
Many generations of Prineville residents walked the halls and sat in the classrooms of the historic Ochoco Elementary School during the nearly 70 years it operated, but these days, construction workers walk the halls.
"When we took possession of it, it still had all the furniture, all the cabinets. There were still assignments hanging on the wall. There was attendance on the whiteboards," said R&H Construction Superintendent Andy Hewes. "It was like they had just walked away for the most part."
Foreman Chris Mills added that it was like the students and staff were saying, "School's over. We're not coming back. Here you go."
Housing Works, the regional housing authority, plans to open the affordable apartment community at Ochoco School Crossing in November.
"The plan right now is about the start of November it's supposed to be complete. What that means is that about three months before that, mid-August, is probably when we would have leasing activity started," said Housing Works Real Estate Director Keith Wooden.
By late summer, EPIC Property Management will actively seek applications, put out notices, and pre-qualify residents.
"All these kinds of things would ramp up so that by the time we actually got a (certificate of occupancy) on the building, that we would have people ready to move in the next day," Wooden said.
The design for Ochoco School Crossing will offer a mix of 29 apartment configurations, including studios, one, two and three bedrooms.
The apartment community will offer residents a variety of services and activities through a number of partner agencies. In addition to NeighborImpact and Crook County Parks and Recreation, other service providers include Ochoco Innovation Station, Early Learning Hub of Central Oregon, Saving Grace, Veterans Affairs, and Oregon Department of Human Services.
In April, Housing Works purchased the property from the Crook County School District for $600,000. Housing Works broke ground on the $8.3 million project on Aug. 15 with Bend-based R&H Construction as the general contractor.
Funding for the development comes from federal tax credits through Oregon Housing and Community Services and HOME funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Last September, NeighborImpact opened two Head Start classrooms in the refurbished detached cafeteria on the campus. After that project was completed, crews moved on to the school building.
"What's been accomplished to date is abatement," Wooden said, adding that furnishings, fixtures and asbestos have all been abated. "Now they're getting to the point where they're getting to do cool stuff, like framing new walls and just starting to get going on the construction process."
Construction crews are taking it down by zones. Each wing is a zone, and crews have spent the last few months abating all the floors and pipes, removing boilers and framing exterior walls.
Site superintendent Hewes said the stucco walls of the first zone, which is the northwest wing of the former school, have been replaced and the windows removed. That zone has all new plumbing for the bathrooms and kitchens and will feature 11 two-bedroom apartments.
Carpenters then moved on to zone two and began the framing work. Zone three is the side of the building with the gymnasium.
Hewes said the project is fun and different.
"It's not your typical new construction or even remodel," he said. "There's a wall in the gymnasium that's got a bunch of writing on it from the last kids that were here like, 'Take care of our school.' We're going to salvage that wall. It will stay here."